A SPECIAL garden in memory of the mothers and babies who were former residents of the Ard Mhuire home in Dunboyne is to be erected in the village as part of Meath County Council’s apology for its historical role in the home.
The move came as the council issued an “unreserved apology” to the former residents of the Dunboyne and Castlepollard mother and baby homes and their families. The unprecedented apology was made on behalf of the 40 councillors by the cathaoirleach of the council Cllr David Gilroy at its monthly meeting on Monday.
The idea for a memorial garden was suggested by Fianna Fáil Cllr Damien O’Reilly and supported unanimously by the councillors. He had called on the council, which was a historical financier of the mother and baby home in Dunboyne, to allocate funding for the project which would remember mothers and babies who were resident there from 1955 to 1991.”
He had asked for the memorial to be located in the Dunboyne Castle or Dunboyne Park area.
The council executive will now consider a location for the garden and allocate funding for it.
In its statement on Monday the council fully acknowledged its role in the establishment and operation of the mother and baby home and apologised to “the residents, their children, their families and the relatives of those who resided in the Dunboyne home (right) and who suffered or were mistreated while resident there, when the home was under the control of the council.” Cllr Gilroy also acknowledged the council’s association with the Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home.
Cllr Ronan Moore, Social Democrats, has welcomed the unreserved apology made by Meath County Council at their February meeting but stresses the need to include the views of survivors and survivor groups in any of the follow-up actions that the Council has now committed to undertaking.
Meath County Council’s involvement as a historical financier of the Dunboyne Mother and Baby Home was acknowledged in full this week when it issued an unprecedented and unreserved apology to the mothers, babies and their families for its role there.
As part of the reparation process, the council has agreed to pay for a memorial garden dedicated to them at a location in the town yet to be decided but possibly in Dunboyne Castle or Dunboyne public park area.
In a statement read to the 40 councillors of Meath County Council at its monthly meeting on Monday, the cathaoirleach Cllr David Gilroy said that the county council “acknowledges its role in the establishment and operation of the Dunboyne Mother and Baby Home. The council apologises to the residents, their children. Their families and the relatives of those who resided in the Dunboyne home and who suffered or were mistreated while resident there, when the home was under the control of the council from 1955 to 1991”.
Cllr Gilroy also acknowledged the council’s association with the Castlepollard Mother and Baby Home.
He said “The council wishes to apologise to the survivors and the families of those who were resident in Castlepollard. While the council’s apology cannot undo the past, it is an acknowledgement of our deep regret that the girls and young women were failed by the State and a recognition that the Council was part of that failure”.
The county council acknowledged that the council played a central role in the acquisition of the house and the negotiation with the Good Shepherd Sisters for the establishment and running of a mother and baby home in Dunboyne. The council also acknowledged that it had an association with the Castlepollard mother and baby home in Westmeath which operated from 1995 to 1971. Meath County Council met the cost of accommodating the girls and women from Meath at the Castlepollard home.
“The council notes that one of its councillors wrote to the Department of Local Government in 1945 asking that it set up a Commission of Inquiry into conditions in Castlepollard but that this ultimately did not result in any significant change”.
Cllr Gilroy said that the Taoiseach Micheal Martin had issued a formal apology on behalf of the State to former residents of the mother and bay home and county homes institutions following the publication of the Final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.
The Government now intends to develop a comprehensive Government Action Plan to address a survivor-centred approach; an apology; access to person information; archiving and databases, education and research; memorialisation; restorative recognition and dignified burial.
“Meath County Council will actively participate with Government in furthering the development of the Government Action Plan as it relates to local government and as it relates to County Meath. Meath County Council commits to supporting local measures that form part of the suite of follow-up actions, for example, in relation to memorialisation and access to archives and records”.
“As cathaoirleach, and with the agreement of the elected council, I will write to the Government requesting that it brings forward, without delay, the legislation required to enable survivors to access their record and personal information, which will be an important step in addressing the concerns expressed by the residents in Dunboyne about the adoption process”, Cllr Gilroy said.
He pointed out that in 1954 Meath County Council partner with five neighbouring local authorities – Louth, Longford, Monaghan, Cavan and Westmeath to establish the mother and baby home in Dunboyne, which operated from 1955 to 1991.
“Due to the location of the home. Meath County Council was the lead authority in the setting up of this institution and this is set out in some detail in the published report. The establishment of the home, known as Ard Mhuire, was the only new institution established in the State for unmarried mothers in response to a Department of Health circular issued to each city and county manager and each public assistance authority in 1952. The circular was quite specific about the role of such institutions. Meath County Council played a central role in the acquisition of the house and the negotiation with the Good Shepherd Sisters for the establishment and running of a mother and baby home in Dunboyne. This is outlined in the report, which also sets out how the council was involved in the maintenance of the home, the financial arrangements and many of the decision-making functions at Ard Mhuire, in the early years before the establishment of the Health Boards in 1970 when the North Eastern Health Board took over from Meath County Council as the relevant health authority”.
The report outlines how a total of 3,156 mothers were resident in Dunboyne over the period.
Independent Cllr Nick Killian proposed, and the councillors agreed, to write to Catherine Corless, the campaigner on the Tuam mother and baby scandal, congratulating her on her work on the issue. He said that but for her tenacity he did not think the matter would have come to light. “We should acknowledge all those who have been hurt and all the babies who were buried in such horrible circumstances”.